Getting an Internship During College
Spring semester; that time of the year when you’re either cosy with your already secured summer internship or are frantically searching for one under tremendous pressure–I’ve been in both situations so I know! Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door at a specific organization, gain professional work experience and get a head start in your career. With top companies paying their interns as much as $7,000-10,000 per month, along with perks such as corporate housing and intern events, the demand for internships is higher than ever. If you want to beat the crowd and secure an excellent summer internship, you need to plan ahead. Here are my seven tips for any college student looking for internships.
1. Build Your Network:
If you’re one of those students who constantly applies to whatever job listings you can find on the Internet, hoping that this will lead to your dream internship, you might as well not be applying at all. Clicking the apply button on job listings online is a low effort, low reward activity. It may give the illusion that you’re making progress, but the reality is that you probably won’t land an incredible internship just by applying online. Most jobs are never advertised, and applying online is akin to throwing your resume into a pile with thousands of other (mostly) garbage resumes. It is just not the right channel.
Speaking from both personal experience and timeless advice of others, most jobs come from other people. And that’s exactly what makes networking so important. You want to build a diverse set of connections at your college, including your peers, industry professionals and recruiters. For example, I attended a Google event on campus and got the contact of the presenter who also happened to be a Senior Engineer at Google. Later that semester when I was applying for a summer internship, he happily recommended my resume to the recruiters, guaranteeing an interview.
2. Take on Projects both Inside and Outside the Classroom:
Projects come useful in so many ways. They help you learn your craft better, develop your planning and organization skills, demonstrate your initiative and passion, AND help you distinguish yourself among the sea of other applicants. Recruiters love to see interesting projects from students and usually, they do ask questions related to your project during your interview. So take on those heavy project classes, find something interesting to create on your own and you will see your internship prospective improved dramatically.
3. Get Your Resume Critiqued:
Your college’s career department is often an under-utilized resource. Among many other useful services, they usually offer free resume critiques. Pay a visit and you can come out with an improved resume. My concise advice? Keep it short–maximum a page, include your coursework and projects and make sure to use action verbs.
4. Attend Career Fair and Company Events:
This one sounds straightforward, but I’m surprised to see how many students, especially freshmen and sophomores, miss this wonderful opportunity–they either don’t muster up the courage to show up, don’t understand the importance of these networking and connecting opportunities, or show up only to hoard free tee-shirts and swag. Don’t be that guy or gal! Most students get their first internships via school-organized career fairs and networking. Make some effort–put on a formal shirt, have an agenda and utilize the career fair.
5. Do Mock Interviews:
Get a taste of the real deal so you don’t panic during an actual interview. Sign up with your schools’ career department for mock interviews, or gather a bunch of friends who can interview each other. Practice specifically for the type of interview in your field. For example, computer science students need to practice solving technical coding problems on a whiteboard, while consulting enthusiasts should prepare for case interviews. Each friend in the group should list three relevant questions and then ask them among each other for actual practice.
6. Know Yourself (and Your Projects):
Before entering any conversation with a recruiter or interviewer, you should know your resume inside and out. Why did you choose your past companies or projects? What did you learn while doing them? Know yourself, including your passions, projects, work experience and learnings, and be ready to discuss these at length with your interviewer.
7. Follow up with recruiters:
Be nice to your interviewers and recruiters. Don’t forget to follow up any conversation with a brief and polite thank you note.
Finally, keep in mind that internships are often competitive and upperclassmen have an easier time getting selected due to more experience and better chances of converting to full-time. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, I suggest looking into specific programmes designed for your year. Many companies, including Google and Facebook, have such targeted programs. I also suggest looking into a summer abroad program at your college–they’re often easier to get into as freshmen. In the meantime, connect with people, build something cool, prepare your resume and most importantly find opportunities that you’ll enjoy while working.
Ayush Sharma is a guest blogger for The Red Pen and final year computer science student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)